Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Matt 5:48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This verse has been the cause of great struggle for many sincere believers. Perfect? As your heavenly father is perfect? Did someone hit Matthew over the head with a bag of denari? God is infinite, uncreated, omni-everything you can think of. How could I possibly be perfect, let alone perfect in the same way He is? Just the thought of it is making me tired already. Oh, wait a minute. Look at the first word in the sentence. Therefore. I once heard a very wise man say that when you see a verse start with a "therefore" you need to find out what it is "there for". I know... I don't really care for "cute" either, but its true. The word therefore means that the meaning of that sentence is tied to the passage it follows. When we look back a few verses we find that Jesus gives some clarity and definition to the perfection He is talking about.

Matt 5:43-47

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Therefore you are to be perfect....

It appears that the perfection Jesus is talking about has to do with the way we walk out the love He calls us to. He loves all men equally and freely. Nature declares it. The sun and the rain fall on all indiscriminately. His love is perfect. Its not based on performance. He doesn't love the obedient and hate the disobedient. He loves all people. He values them all equally. We know that men and women don't naturally love that way. We each have a checklist, even if we don't realize it. The people who are most pleasing to us receive the most value and the best treatment. People who don't score well on our invisible checklist don't generally get the same quality of care. Jesus is calling us to something higher, better, more perfect. He is calling us to partake in His perfect love. He is calling us to love people just because they are His creation. He is calling us to see them as He sees them, and love them as He loves them. He loves His enemies. He died for His enemies. We were all there. We were all on the enemy team. His love captured our hearts, and we switched teams. We joined His team. By His grace we have been brought into a new life in a new kingdom.

Col 1:13-14
For He delivered us from the domain(kingdom)of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

So how is he defining "perfect" here? It seems pretty simple. Its love that shows no favoritism. People have inherent value simply because God made them, and He wants to teach us to walk in that kind of love. Perfect love.

I do want to clarify something. Perfect love, unconditional love is not the same as unconditional acceptance. God is love. Everything He does is an expression of that love. But that love and His perfect wisdom require that His acceptance be conditional. Sin is inherently destructive. Its terminally bad for us. He can't just let us freely live in sin. He can't just look the other way. That would not be love. You don't just stand back and let someone you love destroy themselves and hurt others. That's why He sent Jesus to the cross. He made a way to justly forgive us, and deliver us, and reconcile us to Himself. If we will repent and believe in that offer of a new life in a new kingdom, we find love and acceptance. He has always loved us, and always will. He loves Mother Teresa, and He loves Adolph Hitler. But he cant accept us unless we respond in humility to His conditions. Perfect love. Perfect wisdom. Awesome God.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


I am reminded again this morning of the question, why do we serve God? There are many motivations that people can live out of. The lowest is probably the fear of hell. Many people go to church, give some of their money, and do other religious activities because they are afraid that if they don't, they will spend eternity in a very hot and unpleasant place. The fear of hell is probably not a bad place to start. Unfortunately I can think of numerous times in my life when I refrained from bad behavior because of the potential negative consequences that could be a result. Its a possible starting point in our pursuit of God, but not a good place to spend our lives.

Then there are the people who are following the Lord because of the benefits involved. They live in the hope and expectation that their pursuit of a good life of obedience to His ways will bring blessing on their lives. Financial prosperity, physical health, good relationships... all you have to do is read Deuteronomy to see all the great things that we can enjoy as a result of an obedient life. Its right there in black and white, so it cant be a bad thing, but I think there is something more, something higher. Look at these glimpses of heaven from the Revelation to John.

Rev 4:9-11
And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

"Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created."

Rev 5:11-12

And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

Worthy... those beings who are in the direct presence of Jesus say that He is simply worthy of our love and devotion. They have seen in Him qualities that make Him deserving of our worship. They make no reference to any form of reward or punishment. He is simply worthy of our love. I believe that this is where the Lord wants to take us. He wants to open the eyes of our hearts to see His goodness and His greatness with such clarity, that we serve Him for one primary reason. He is worthy. Oh... the benefits are there. His word is full of great and precious promises of all He will do for those who sincerely follow after Him with all their hearts. But those are just that, benefits. When you take a job, it is primarily to get a paycheck. If the company offers health insurance or a retirement program, those are considered benefits. They are an extra blessing for being part of that business, but they are not the main reason you are there. When we really see Him for who He is, then He Himself becomes the very reason we follow Him. When we see His great love for us, we fall in love with Him. All the blessings that go along with that are great, but He Himself becomes the object of our affections. When we really see how awesome He is, we would serve Him if there weren't any benefits at all except for the honor of knowing Him. Our lives become an offering of gratitude. That seems to be the mindset of those who are before the throne. They bow and worship Him night and day because He is worthy of that worship.

Lord, capture my heart with that reality...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Try to follow me here...

Okay... so I'm driving down the road listening to a teaching cd today, and Greg Boyd is talking about how God is grieved when wealthy people and poor people live alongside one another and the wealthy are unwilling to use the resources He has given them to help those in need. This makes me think about how I heard Mike Bickle talking another time about how we perceive God's emotions. When He thinks about you, is He mostly glad, or mostly mad? And then I start to think about how God experiences emotions. When someone in my house has made me mad, everyone in the house at that time gets to experience Dad as mad. (two quick points.... #1 This is purely theoretical. Anyone who knows me understands that I NEVER get mad. and #2 We are talking about anger, as opposed to insanity. I might lose the argument on point #1 if we were discussing sanity.) Now...as I was saying, I was thinking about God and His emotions. When I am happy, I am pretty much happy with everyone. When I am mad, or sad, that is the version of Brian that everyone in the room experiences. But God is not that way. You can be in a room with 100 people, and each of them can be in a different place with the Lord. With one He can be joyful as they seek to follow Him and love Him with all their heart. With another He can be grieved because they are hurting themselves with drugs, or immorality, or greed. With another, He might be sharing their sadness over the loss of a loved one, or some other pain they are experiencing. Each one is in a different place, and relating to God in a different way. And He is able all at once to relate to each one of them the way that His wisdom and love move His heart. Incredible. His presence is in the room with 100 people, and yet it is almost as if you were the only one there with Him. He is awesome.

(Right now you may be thinking, "Duh!" Thats okay... its still awesome.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Isa 64:1-4

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Your presence--
As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil--
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
When You did awesome things which we did not expect,
You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.

Lord, I want this in my life. Rend the heavens, I pray, and awaken my heart to how great and awesome you are. Let me live in the awareness of your presence, and how every breath I take is a gift from you. Its so easy to forget about you. Its so easy to get busy with the stuff of everyday life, and simply forget you. I ask you to shake me in your love whenever I start to become dull. That is grace... that is mercy... that you would protect me from a hard heart. You "act in behalf of the one who waits" for you. Remind me to wait. CSI calls... or was it American Idol? My business calls. I just need one more account. After all, you never know when I might lose one. The gods of this world cry out for my attention. Lord, help me hunger for one thing. Help me remember that there is one thing that will truly satisfy the hunger of my heart. More than that, help me remember your goodness and love. Help me remember that you are worthy that I would turn away from every other god, and give you my whole heart.

You are worthy....